One week of sleepless nights, one week of mapping like crazy. Newdoom's Wad in a week contest has awakened unknown abilities in myself. Failure was not an option. With enough effort and dedication, I thought that I should be able to win that thing. A few days, sleepless nights and cups of coffee later the results were up and I got my reward: A white t-shirt with a Doom logo on it, the prize for the first place. But it wasn't for the physical object, it was more for the acceptance that I earned with this release. The map was well-received in the community and a game-changer for my mind. I felt like with enough sweat and more than just one week, everything I imagined could be turned into an entertaining piece of data.
Beginning to torment the community
Where the first episode was a result of time pressure and a few basic empty room layouts provided by Newdoom.com to make sure, participants of the Wad in a Week contest start at the same time, the inspiration behind the second episode was a totally different one. During the first years of the new century, I got my hands on Epic Megagames top title Unreal which is still one of my favorite titles today. The exteriors, the effects, the gameplay, the music - everything was and still is flawless. For Torment & Torture 2 I didn't only use Bluff Eversmoking's tune, but also ideas for scripted events, traps and fights as well as weather and atmospheric effects, that underlined the dirty heat in Ogro's Metal Facilities. Even some lost TZDoom places have been implemented, that I could still remember from my 'contaminated' map in progress. When working on the successor, I tried to avoid limiting myself to the classic Doom engine, I tried to implement every possible feature of ZDoom to achieve the feeling of a modern game.
For Torment & Torture 3 I went even further with the help of the sourceport's advancing set of features. DECORATE was only implemented for simple (as the name implies) 'decorations', but with some cross-game tricks, you were able to add new enemies and new weapons to your mod without overwriting original content, for example by using code from Hexen in the Doom engine. As far as I can remember, the Fortress of Damnation was the first wad, showcasing something like that. I was playing around with skyboxes to fake portals, I created cloned areas to simulate rooms over rooms, and added any kind of special effect that ZDoom was capable of. I wanted to create an experience for Doom that hasn't been done before, something that makes the players' jaws drop, and modders ask "How the heck did he do that?". It was released in April 2003 and back then the largest project I have ever worked on.
The Ultimate Compilation
I still have no idea how he made it, but he prepared one single resource wad for me combining all the lumps, textures, flats and other necessary content. From that moment on, it was only about mapping, improving and finalizing. Without Graf Zahl, there would not be a UTNT. In this way, I'd like to thank him - I still owe you one, my friend!
Developing the remaster of the Torment & Torture series including an all-new episode 4 took me about three years to finish and it was finally released in September 2007. Two months later it won my very first award at Doomworld's Annual Cacowards. For me this was one of the greatest moments in my modding career, a moment where I received recognition, the one kind that somehow everyone of us is yearning for. Yes, Doom is a hobby for us modders, but it's not only abour killing time, it's showcasing and presenting your visions. Seeing other people appreciating your work is more worth than a million dollars.
TORM, the Easter-Bunny
Many easter eggs scattered in my subsequent mods followed, the complete list would be extremely long and I can promise you that Blade of Agony took this to the extremes. Below there is an excerpt of all these additions since I've started developing doom mods: Which project has what easter egg and where it can be found or actually what was the inspiration behind it. If you don't want to spoil yourself, I'd suggest skipping this block and searching for all of them on your own - good luck, I made them well hidden.
In the early 90's, a role-playing-game was released in Germany that was based on a pen-and-paper game called "Das Schwarze Auge", on the international market it was known as "Realms of Arkania". My father was a big fan of the game as well as the successors titled "Star Trail" and "Shadows over Riva" - the open world concept of "Blade of Destiny" was simply awesome and so was the story behind the sword and the battl between humans and orcs in the world of Aventuria.
As good as the game was and still is, the engine aged badly. Sure there's been a remake a few years ago but it didn't catch the same spirit as the original dos game, so for a certain easter egg, I simply asked myself: "How would the game look in a sourceport?" ...hours of extracting graphics from screenshots and building a little map portion out of it, the concept looked legit enough for my taste. Where it can be found? Well... you'll soon have the chance to search for it.
Even though you can consider this to be more a secret map, the special missions in Stronghold had a certain easter-egg character. One of these scenarios was a direct homage to Duke Nukem 3D and instead of fighting demons and defending vital technical objects, you saved babes from aliens - simple as that.
Before starting the development of this map, I already knew how much effort is going to be involved. As far as I can remember, Apothem ported the complete cast of Duke 3D and I build the map and setting around it. So much work for just a single secret easter egg map thing, how far can one go? Well, you can ask ravage the same question when it comes to his secret missions in Hocus Doom, or you simply play the Astrostein Operaton in Blade of Agony.
A recreation of Sam & Max' office at the beginning of Hit the Road can be found in the Ultimate Torment & Torture Episode 3, near the Fortress of Damnation.
It was one of my first implementations of an easter egg with such a complex scale, but it was fun learning how to convert 2D elements from flat bitmaps into a three-dimensional 2.5D environment.
Sometimes I really ask myself why I even considered putting so much effort into an easter egg that most propably only a handful of people will be able to find and see, as these are just secrets. I guess most of the time I just wanted to proof myself what is possible to do - and what isn't. Bringing the classic Super Mario Bros. 3 feeling to the Doom engine was a challenge I wanted to try.
It's not a perfect recreation but the colorful and happy-time break from slicing and perforating demons in the second episode of Torment & Torture was a relief. I love contrasts.
While I was starting to play Doom wads from the internet, it didn't took long to become a big fan of Laz Rojas' WolfenDoom series. To be honest: I admire his work and it was one of the greatest inspirations in the late 90's for me. Adding an easter-egg to Torment & Torture LE to honor him was something I made of the best intentions. If I knew what happened almost 20 years later, I would have reconsidered the decision - or at least done better. In the meantime, I got in contact with Laz himself and the inattention got out of the way, and the WolfenDoom mods remain having a special place in my heart.
Fact is, that WolfenDoom was the primary inspiration for me about 6 years ago when I decided to start with a mapset called Blade of Agony. But let's talk about that later.
Crediting friends, supporters and co-developers in a text file or an end titles roll is one thing. Implementing easter eggs is another - one that I always preferred or considered as an addition to spice things up. In Episode 4 of The Ultimate Tormet & Torture, near the final boss battle, take a closer look and you can find a cemetery full of tombstones.
All of these names are people that helped me in one way or another during the development of the compilation and if you think that's already enough, have you already tried 'using' the tombstones?
The intermission map - or headquarter - in Stronghold is full of life. I didn't want to make it feel like a dead place but more like a real instituation. A spot where people live, where marines and scientists have a daily routine and where there is so much to discover. Next to advertisement screens that have been fed with input by the whole ZDoom community, you can also find a jukebox with which you can change the background music. This jukebox is a direct homage to the passion that I had with old dos games in my youth next to Doom: Wing Commander, Tie Fighter, Raptor and Diablo to be precise.
It was so popular that I had to directly port that thing to Blade of Agony with new tunes for each of the chapters, so there is enough variety to keep your ears busy for a while.
Knee-Deep in work
The late 2000's have been my most efficient and productive time - it was simply the life stage that mostly consisted of leisure: I finished school, was doing my alternative civilian service and started with my academic studies at the university in Stuttgart. I shared my time with friends or spent it with sports and yes, with Doom mods. The result was a multitude of projects released from 2004 to 2010: Sapphire, Torment & Torture, Austerity, The City of the Damned, ZDoom Community Map Project and then there was a project that could not have been more controversial, a mod that divided our community into two camps...